Earlier today, the Carolina Panthers parted ways with their franchise quarterback Jake Delhomme after seven years.
Most people remember and will remember Delhomme’s struggles that began last year in the NFC Divisional Round Game against the Arizona Cardinals, where he turned the ball over five times.
Most people will also remember the struggles endured by Delhomme this year, opening the season with another six turnovers against Philadelphia. Delhomme struggled until he broke a pinky that ended his season. Some would say that Delhomme never truly recovered from the playoff game against the Cardinals.
But the way this radio host will remember Jake Delhomme is the magical ride he gave the Carolina Panthers just seven years ago.
Choosing to go to Carolina over Dallas in the 2003 offseason, Delhomme replaced incumbent Rodney Peete in the second half of the season opening game against Jacksonville. Delhomme led the team to a comeback win, on a touchdown pass to wide receiver Ricky Proehl in the final minute of the game.
From then on, Delhomme was the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. He beat the mighty, undefeated Indianapolis Colts in overtime. He lead the team to its first Super Bowl, which the Panthers lost to the Patriots on a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
Delhomme, with his Louisiana accent, became the face of the franchise, and for the first time, gave the young team a winning attitude. The team became known as the ‘Cardiac Cats’ for Delhomme’s ability to lead late game comebacks.
Someone would also know that Delhomme was well-respected. He got the nickname Jake “Daylight come and you got to” Delhomme from ESPN’s Chris Berman.
Delhomme would go on to become one of the top rated quarterbacks in the NFL during his tenure with the Panthers. Despite not being the poster-boy that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were, Delhomme won just as many games as they did and had comparable statistics.
However injuries were what Delhomme became known for in his final years in Carolina. He became the first known quarterback to successfully return from elbow ligament replacement (“Tommy John”) surgery. He also led the Panthers to a second NFC championship game, and created a star in receiver Steve Smith.
But in the end, it was money that broke up one of the most successful team-quarterback marriages in NFL history. Delhomme signed a lucrative deal in which he was owed $12.5 million dollars. That was just too much for a team trying to rebuild.
So Delhomme, head coach John Fox, and general manager Marty Hurney all took turns choking up at the microphone today. Delhomme, sobbing throughout, said he had no hard feelings for the organization and understand the move they had to make.
Nevertheless, it is a sad day for the Panthers and their fans. The quarterback which created a perennial Super Bowl contender out of the team has just been kicked to the curb and the memories of Super Bowl XXXLIII in Houston seem so long ago.
Thanks for the memories Jake. But sometimes, daylight comes and you’ve got to go home.